March 12, 2014

Palmer Square Management has decided not to lease a storefront on Hulfish Street to the Princeton post office, as previously planned. But the branch, a presence on Palmer Square since 1934, may move to the East Nassau Street neighborhood as part of the former West Coast Video location. The front of that building is being considered as a location for a 7-Eleven store.

Alec Monaghan, first vice-president of CBRE Inc., the real estate firm handling the post office sale, said Tuesday that the West Coast Video site is on the table as a new home for the post office, which must move because it’s Palmer Square building is being sold to a California-based developer. “It would be on the side of the building or the back,” he said. “It has pretty good visibility and there is parking. A whole population lives at that end of town, too. I feel good about it.”

Mr. Monaghan said he has spoken to Robert Bratman, whose family owns the former West Coast Video building, about the possibility. Mr. Bratman said Tuesday that if the deal went through, the post office would be located where a laundromat used to be. “I think it’s a good idea,” he said.

The United States Postal Service wants to move the Princeton branch to a smaller site as part of a nationwide downsizing effort. CBRE is also representing other post office locations. Princeton’s current post office is 12,000 square feet, and the move to 51-53 Hulfish Street would have meant scaling down to 2,000 square feet. The East Nassau Street site is approximately 2,300 square feet, Mr. Bratman said.

The Postal Service was in the process of negotiating a lease with Palmer Square Management, but the management company has decided not to go through with the deal.

“Mostly this is because I was hoping to keep it as a retail or dining use,” said David Newtown, vice president of Palmer Square Management. “I hope they find somewhere in the downtown. They have been very professional in their dealings with us, and I hope the right outcome occurs.”

Postal Service spokesman Raymond Daiutolo said yesterday that the decision was a disappointment. “We learned that the location is no longer available, so we have to go back to square one,” he said. “That means we have to solicit again for an alternate location for retail operations.”

Mr. Monaghan said the Hulfish Street site was “a triple A location,” and also expressed disappointment at the decision. But the company is looking for alternatives. In addition to the West Coast Video possibility, they are considering another downtown location. “I can’t disclose where it is, because it has a tenant in it,” he said.

Keeping the post office in a downtown location has been a priority since the move was announced in 2012. Some people have expressed an interest in moving it to Princeton Shopping Center, where there is ample parking, but that option is not favored by the municipality and by Princeton University, which wants to keep the site within walking distance of students.

“I have encouraged the post office to explore that possibility [East Nassau Street] as well as others,” Mayor Liz Lempert said in an email yesterday. “It is important to maintain a post office in the central business district and we are working with the post office to try and find a spot that meets their needs and the needs of the community.”

 

At last week’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) information session held in the Princeton Public Library’s Community Room, local residents were offered free advice on choosing and signing up for medical coverage.

People turned out to ask questions about using the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov and to seek advice on comparing plans, alternatives to the government site, the pros and cons of using an insurance agent, and whether they should apply by phone or on paper.

The event was hosted by the Princeton Public Library in conjunction with Princeton Human Services, the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, and Enroll America, the education and outreach non-profit that launched a national Get Covered America campaign last year to raise public awareness of new health insurance options.

In the brief press conference that followed, Mayor Liz Lempert urged all Princeton residents to take advantage of the ACA and any assistance that they may be eligible for. According to a mayoral public service announcement in support of President Obama’s health care initiative, available on the municipal website princetonnj.gov, “82 percent of New Jerseyians who have enrolled in the federal marketplace have received federal help.”

During the four hour session, about 55 people tapped into the expertise of 10 certified application counselors as well as three representatives of New Jersey insurance providers. Some were looking for answers to specific questions, others were hoping for general information to get them started. Several were ready to enroll right on the spot. “The session helped a lot of people know what they need to do by when and how to get it done,” said Event and Library Associate Shelly Hawk.

The three HMO companies offering plans on the New Jersey exchange are AmeriHealth New Jersey, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey.

AmeriHealth New Jersey describes itself as “the only health insurer focused solely on the state of New Jersey.” Its website (www.amerihealth.com) offers a variety of health plans for individuals as well as small- or mid-sized business, and municipalities. For more information on its ACA compliant plans, in the bronze, silver, gold and platinum categories, call (888) 879-5331.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (BCBSNJ) is transitioning its members to new ACA compliant health plans and has information on its website (www.horizonblue.com) or by phone: (800) 224-1234.

Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey (HRINJ) is a new non-profit, consumer operated and oriented plan that was established in response to the Affordable Care Act. It describes itself as a co-op with no private shareholders, “so all of our profits go toward ensuring that the individuals and small businesses we serve get the healthcare they need.” It offers plans in the categories: Core, Solid, Prime, and Catastrophic through its website newjersey.healthrepublic.us and can be contacted by phone: (888) 990-5706, or by email: info@newjersey.healthrepublic.us.

“The library was thrilled to be the central location for this community collaboration spearheaded by Princeton Human Services,” said Ms. Hawk. “Ensuring the public has access to resources concerning the ACA is a top priority for the library and this event was a follow up to a more general introduction to the ACA with Human Services and the Medical Center that was hosted in November.”

“Enroll America provided knowledgeable and friendly trained facilitators who answered questions and helped people enroll onsite, as did the University Medical Center, which continues to do so daily at their site,” said Ms. Hawk.

In March 2010, President Barack Obama’s comprehensive healthcare reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), was signed into law.

ACA requires all citizens to have medical insurance and metes out a penalty for those who do not comply. The penalty for not having coverage in 2014 is $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater. In 2015, the penalty rises to $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater: and in 2016 it will be $698 or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater. The deadline for people to sign up for health coverage for this year is March 31.

For those on a low income whose employer does not offer health benefits, there is a tax credit that can be applied to the monthly cost of insurance up front or taken into account when taxes are filed at the end of the year. To find out if you are eligible for a subsidy, visit: healthcare.gov. If you are eligible, you must apply for coverage through this website.

All plans offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace must include a core set of essential health benefits and fit into one of four tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. according to monthly premium cost and percentage of medical coverage.

Those who do not qualify for a subsidy may still apply through healthcare.gov, apply directly to a healthcare provider, or go through an insurance agent.

Although there are some exceptions, and subsidies vary according to income and number in a household, some general rules apply. If you are the only person in your household and your yearly income is between $11,490 and $45,960, you may qualify for lower premiums on a Marketplace insurance plan. If your yearly income is between $11,490 and $28,725, you may qualify for lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs for Marketplace insurance.

UMCPP’s Carolyn Schindewolf was one of several professionals available to offer advice. She described the list of items to have available during an enrollment session with a counselor: Social Security Numbers or document numbers for legal immigrants; employer and income information for every member of the household who will need coverage (pay stubs or W-2 forms); and policy numbers of any current health insurance plans covering members of the household.

UMCCP is an official Certified Application Counselor organization and will continue to offer advice through March 31, the end of the enrollment period. It provides enrollment assistance at a number of locations. For a list of times and locations, see princetonhcs.org/calendar.

For more information, visit: GetCoveredAmerica.org, HealthCare.gov, or call (800) 318-2596.

For information sessions organized by UMCCP, visit: princetonhcs.org/calendar, or call (888) 897-8979 to schedule an appointment with a counselor. Walk-ins are also welcome and will be seen on a first come, first-served basis, when counselors are available.

Information Sessions

A Certified Application Counselor from Princeton HealthCare System’s Community Education and Outreach Program will provide an overview of New Jersey’s health insurance marketplace; how it works; who qualifies; how to enroll; and more on Wednesday, March 12, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hickory Corner Library, 138 Hickory Corner Road, East Windsor; and on Thursday, March 13, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Hamilton Area YMCA John K Rafferty Branch, 1315 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road, Hamilton; and on Monday, March 17, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the West Windsor Library, 333 North Post Road, Princeton Junction; call (609) 275-8901 to register.

 

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Though its primary purpose is permit people using a parking lot to get from their cars to the tow-path between the D&R Canal and Lake Carnegie, the recent break in the winter weather makes it hard not call up the chorus of Simon and Garfunkel’s song about another, bigger bridge, only with one word changed, “looking for spring and feeling groovy.” (Photo by Emily Reeves)

 

March 5, 2014
COPPERWOOD MOVING FAST: Copperwood architect and developer J. Robert Hillier’s housing community for those over 55, nears completion on Bunn Drive among 100 foot tall trees of the Princeton Ridge Preservation. With sustainable features such as sedum roofs, low energy appliances, and recycled rainwater irrigation, interest is strong for the 153 units that will be ready for residents this June.

COPPERWOOD MOVING FAST: Copperwood architect and developer J. Robert Hillier’s housing community for those over 55, nears completion on Bunn Drive among 100 foot tall trees of the Princeton Ridge Preservation. With sustainable features such as sedum roofs, low energy appliances, and recycled rainwater irrigation, interest is strong for the 153 units that will be ready for residents this June.

Anyone walking or driving around Princeton recently couldn’t fail to notice changes afoot. While The Residences at Palmer Square are now complete, several other residential communities are approaching their finish lines. 

The view from Paul Robeson Place and John Street shows new homes for the families of Princeton University faculty and staff rising where Merwick Care Center once stood.

On the other side of town, alongside Lake Carnegie, the University’s newly built apartments and townhomes for graduate students are scheduled to be ready this summer.

And on Bunn Drive, surrounded by a preserved forest that is part of the 200-acre Princeton Ridge Preservation, Copperwood, Princeton’s first market-rate senior housing development, is almost ready to be occupied.

Palmer Square Residences

With the sale of its first fully-furnished town home model, Palmer Square Management has unveiled a second to introduce the public to The Residences at Palmer Square’s varied living alternatives, luxury, and design.

The model has seen quite a bit of foot traffic from the public as well as realtors and two new condominium buildings and two new rental buildings are now available.

“The completion of most of the construction has now brought the community to the point where buyers can immediately experience the living spaces, quality of construction, upscale finishes and appointments, and the homes’ integration into the overall Palmer Square and downtown Princeton communities,” said spokesperson George Cahn. “Because of that, we’re seeing prospective buyers who first visited Palmer Square three and four years ago now returning to see the finished product and it’s making a difference. Seven homes have sold, including six townhomes and one flat. Three new rental residences have been leased since the new buildings opened a couple of weeks ago.”

According to a press release from Palmer Square Management, the recent completion of significant construction has allowed for immediate occupancy and more than 50 percent of the first phase of the multi-story complex has been sold, with closings underway.

Two- and three-bedroom townhomes from 2,622 to 3,084 square feet are priced from $1,775,000 to $2,195,000. Two- and three-bedroom flats ranging from 1,623 to 4,130 square feet are priced from $1.245 million to $3.4 million.

“Once we completed construction of the first phase of multi-story townhomes and single-level flats, we experienced an increase in sales activity,” said David Newton of Palmer Square Management, adding that interest in new rental
opportunities has always been high.

In response to the demand for rentals, Palmer Square Management released newly-completed condominiums and rental residences with monthly rents from $4,800 to $8,600.

For more information or to make a private appointment to view the fully-furnished townhome and single-level models, call (609) 924-3884, or visit www.palmersquareresidences.com. The sales center at 112 Victoria Mews is open Monday through Friday, 10 to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Merwick, Stanworth, Lakeside

The homes visible from Bayard Lane and John Street are a mix of apartments and townhouses, including affordable units available to local residents with low-to-moderate incomes. Eight townhouse buildings and three mid-rise buildings have a total of 128 units. According to a University update, the first phase of the project is due to be completed July 1, followed by phase two, the construction of 198 units at the Stanworth site.

This new construction is part of the University’s housing plan for faculty, staff, and graduate students. Accommodation for the latter is taking shape on the site formerly occupied by Hibben and Magie apartments and will provide homes for some 715 graduate students in 74 three and four bedroom townhomes and 255 apartments that have a variety of configurations: one-bedroom, one-bath; two-bedroom, one-bath units; and three-bedroom, three-bath units. Some of the units will be fully furnished.

Lakeside Graduate Housing is also due to open this summer.

The buildings have been designed and built according to Princeton’s sustainability standards and the University will seek LEED silver certification for them from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Copperwood

The list of qualified potential renters for the 153 Copperwood units on Bunn Drive has grown to 320, arguing the need for even more apartments of this kind in the Princeton area.

“This is the only active adult rental project within 10 miles of Princeton and interest is very strong with 24 units already spoken for,” said Copperwood architect and developer J. Robert Hillier (a Town Topics shareholder).

The sustainable development sits on four acres in the middle of 21 acres of woodlands, of which 17 acres is dedicated to conservation in perpetuity, and is surrounded by the Princeton Ridge Preservation.

“Copperwood looks in great shape for its expected end-date of June 1,” said Mr. Hillier. “The project is just about two thirds done. We are about to start putting up the sheet rock walls so you can really see the interiors taking shape and we expect to have models to show by the beginning of next month.”

The community is arranged in five buildings around a piazza with landscaped gardens on top of a sunken garage. Elevators from the underground garage serve each floor of each building. Amenities include full time concierge services, a fitness center, a cafe/lounge/library, a party/meeting room and a bicycle storage room. Parking will also accommodate electric cars.

Walkways, gardens and
piazzas separate the buildings, whose exteriors are designed to blend with the wooded surroundings. Ground-floor units have private patios. Other units look out onto woods or gardens.

The project was originally scheduled to open in the fall of 2012 but the discovery of more boulders than originally expected and severe weather caused delays. Many of those boulders, incidentally, ended up restoring the New Jersey shore after Sandy.

The 55+ Active-Lifestyle Community has 153 luxury rental apartments offered in multiple designs and ranging in size from 718 to 1426 square feet.

Depending upon finishes, size and location within the complex, the units will rent from $2,230 to $4,100 a month. Twelve of the units will be affordable housing and all include assigned parking in the private, underground garage.

Sustainability

“It’s a real example of sustainable design unlike any within 100 miles of Princeton,” said Mr. Hillier, who describes the project as “enabling people who have spent their lives in Princeton to downsize and continue to live here. They have never been able to do that before in this quality of environment.”

Sustainable features include sedum roofs to harvest rainwater for irrigation and toilets, semi-pervious driveways and walkways, energy efficient lighting, and environmentally-friendly food waste disposers.

Mr. Hillier, who grew up in Princeton, likens the 300,000 square feet construction to a modern European hilltop village. “Copperwood will satisfy an unmet need for senior rental housing in Princeton and will provide luxury living and convenience to the active adults here,” he said.

“It is a pleasure to finally be able to deliver housing that enables Princeton residents to downsize and yet continue to enjoy this amazing community of Princeton,” said Mr. Hillier.

For more information, call (609) 688-9999, or visit: www.copperwoodprinceton.com.

 

“Speakology: the Art and Science of Speaking — for Kids” is a new course geared to those aged 7-17, to be held at Tigerlabs, 252 Nassau Street, March 15-April 19. Speakology founder Dana Lichstrahl will run the classes from 4-6 p.m. for six consecutive Saturdays.

Speakology founder and Princeton resident Dana Lichtstrahl has since 2011 been striving to ensure that young people can verbally express themselves with grace and ease, anywhere, anytime, with anyone. In an age of “technological expression” comfortable, face-to-face communication is “essential, and critical for advancement”, she says. Deals are most often sealed, and agreements made, in person.

“Educating kids on the fundamentals of communication when they are young benefits everyone and everything.” adds Ms. Lichtstrahl, a communications professional for more than 20 years whose credits include leading the public relations and publicity campaigns for the launch of the Bank of Princeton in 2006. Tigerlabs, where the SPEAK
OLOGY classes are held, is also the home of 8ANDUP (8andup.com), another kids’ curriculum focused on entrepreneurship.

For more information, or to register, visit http://speakology.us/contact-reg/ Seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

On Wednesday, March 12 at 4:30 p.m., Gareth Evans, Chancellor of the Australian National University and former Foreign Minister of Australia, will give a lecture, “After Syria: The Future of the Responsibility to Protect,” in Wolfensohn Hall on the Institute of Advanced Study campus. 

Another lecture at Wolfensohn Hall is scheduled for Wednesday, March 26 at the same time, when Vladimir Voevodsky, professor in the school of mathematics at the Institute, will speak on “Univalent Foundations: New Foundations of Mathematics,” The lecture is in honor of the Princeton Adult School’s 75th Anniversary. The Institute supports and shares the Adult School’s mission to promote and foster lifelong learning and exploration in the Princeton community and beyond.

The Institute is located at 1 Einstein Drive. Call (609) 734-8000 for information.

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Last year was enormously eventful for the Princeton Police Department. 2013 began with consolidation of the Borough and the Township police departments. 

Then Chief David Dudeck retired amidst allegations of of harassment and discrimination and a civil suit by seven police officers against him and the municipality; new immigration laws came down from the Federal Government; and the department was scrutinized in December by the Rodgers Group at the culmination of a year-long accreditation process.

Now, one of the Rodgers Group recommendations is about to be realized as Princeton Council readies to appoint a new chief of police. Mayor Lempert has said that the announcement of a new chief would likely be be made this month.

Capt. Nicholas K. Sutter, a police officer for almost two decades, appears to be a shoo-in for the job. He served with the Borough of Princeton before consolidation and he has been leading the department as acting chief since last February’s departure of former Chief Dudeck.

The mayor has frequently commended Mr. Sutter in his role as acting chief.

Asked for comment on the most challenging aspects of his job as acting chief over the past year or so, Mr. Sutter said: “I would say the complete operational integration of both departments and sorting through the myriad of issues that went along with such a huge project was definitely the biggest challenge.

“I have described the consolidation of the two previous Princeton Police Departments as two families coming together as one. While many families share many things in common they each have their own traditions, customs, values, and histories that are not easily changed or forgotten. A police department is not unlike a family with all the dynamics that accompany those relationships. The success of this organization rests in the immersion of these former customs and traditions of the former departments into the identity and culture of our new department.”

But what was challenging, said Mr. Sutter, has also proved rewarding as he has witnessed the evolution of a single department as new relationships have formed.

The acting chief has little time for those who forecast disaster and claim that the department was dysfunctional and that the two police departments would never get along. “I’m here to say that it did work, we are harmonizing extremely well together and we are looking forward to a successful future,” said Mr. Sutter. The challenges of consolidation and the issues that came along with it, have resulted in a much stronger police department, he said.

Rodgers’ Recommendation

According to Princeton Administrator Robert W. Bruschi, the Rodgers Report was a factor in the decision to appoint a new chief from within the department. For Police Commissioner Heather Howard, the Rodgers Group was an important factor pointing to the selection from within the department and with some urgency too.

Last December, the Rodgers Group, a public safety consulting firm hired to report on the health and culture of the Princeton Police Department, urged the municipality to make hiring a permanent leader for the police department a top priority.

Furthermore, the report recommended that the town promote a chief from within departmental ranks. “The department has coalesced around its current leadership and interjecting an outside public safety director would upset the apple cart, and not add any value to the equation,” said Mr. Rodgers, adding that stability of leadership would be crucial to the successful transformation of the post-consolidation merger of the Borough and Township police departments and he praised Mr. Sutter in his role as acting chief.

“Their findings were informed by anonymous surveys of all members of the force, in addition to many focus groups with employees and outside community members and stakeholders,” said Ms. Howard, adding that “personally [I] have heard tremendous feedback and support from the public for the new department and its current leadership.”

Mr. Sutter’s years as a second in command and full year leading the newly formed department make him a valuable asset, said Mr. Bruschi, adding that “His attitude and his dedication are helping to lead our department to becoming a progressive department with an emphasis on the community policing. Many departments say they have adopted that policy but when it comes down to it I would put our activities and accomplishments up against any department.”

“Captain Sutter has done a tremendous job over the last year,” agreed Ms. Howard, citing the acting chief’s melding of the two distinct Borough and Township cultures, introduction of new community policing and traffic bureau services, and doing more with less to protect the public through administrative efficiencies and smart management. He has also strengthened relations with the community, including for example, specific initiatives with the immigrant community, said Ms. Howard. “We are very fortunate to have his leadership.”

More than anyone perhaps, Bob Bruschi is well-placed to speak about the acting chief. Since Mr. Bruschi was appointed “appropriate authority” for police oversight, he has met with Capt. Sutter almost daily. “If we don’t have a sit down we almost always have a phone call,” he said.

Still, the dysfunctional department stigma is not an easy one to shake off.

Asked what safeguards have been put into place to make sure there will be no recurrence of events such as those leading to the lawsuit against former Chief Dudeck, Mr. Bruschi commented that “more than policies, which are already in place, what was really needed was the feeling in members of the department that they could come forward to speak about unresolved issues. Captain Sutter is extremely approachable and I’ve made it clear to the PBA as well as at the staff meetings that I’ve attended that any issue or concern that they feel can’t be addressed within the department or isn’t being addressed should come to me,” he said.

Ms. Howard pointed to a number of reforms to “improve the functioning of the department.” She cited, for example, the adoption of best practices and the appointment of the town administrator as the appropriate authority, a departure from past practice, as well as the development of a strategic plan for the department. “Captain Sutter has shown tremendous leadership over the past year and has instituted regular meetings with his leadership and the broader department to improve communication within the department,” she said.

The appointment will be a matter for the entire council.

 

Eden Autism Services presents its 20th Annual Princeton Lecture Series at Princeton University’s McDonnell Hall on Friday, March 21. For families and professionals, Princeton Lecture Series is an open forum where leading authorities in the field present new findings and future possibilities for the treatment and awareness of autism. In addition to the keynote presentations, the day will conclude with a question and answer panel discussion comprised of experts in the autism field. 

Speaker Dr. Margaret L. Bauman of Boston University’s School of Medicine, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, will address the issue of medical co-morbidities. V. Mark Durand, autism spectrum disorders authority and professor of psychology at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg, will present “Understanding and Treating Severe Behavior Problems in Persons with ASD.” Paul Wehman of Virginia Commonwealth University will present “Youth with Autism: Toward Full Participation in the Community.”

“As we celebrate 20 years of amazing speakers, we also look back at the many developments that have taken place over the past two decades,” says Carol Markowitz, Chief Operating Officer of Eden Autism Services. “In the early nineties, prevalence rates for children in the United States affected by autism were 1 in 10,000; today that number is 1 in 88. Eden remains committed to providing quality services to individuals with autism and their families as well as to the autism community at large. We are delighted to again bring together an impressive group of leaders in the field who will explore and explain new and positive actions being taken to enhance the quality of life for those with autism.”

“The Princeton Lecture Series is not to be missed,” says Kim Picariello, mother of a child with autism. “As a mom to a nonverbal ASD 5-year-old, I look forward to it each year. I’m always encouraging my son’s therapists to attend with me as well, knowing how impressed they’d be by the speakers and the information shared that day … it’s an enlightening experience to anyone wanting to learn more about living with autism. Each year I’ve walked out of that Princeton lecture hall feeling empowered by the information and motivated by everyone I met.”

Additional highlights include a special presentation by the Honorable Helen E. Hoens, Justice New Jersey Supreme Court (former), and parent of an adult with autism; and a pre-conference symposium by Dr. Durand on Thursday, March 20 in Monroe Township, where he will present “Overcoming Obstacles to Successful Behavioral Intervention.“

Admission to the Lecture Series is $75 for general public and $25 for students, and includes continental breakfast and lunch. Registration begins at 8:15 a.m. Symposium pricing is also $75/$25. There is special pricing for those who sign up for both the Lecture and Symposium. CEU hours and BCBA credits are available.

For more information, or to register visit princetonlectureseries.org or call (609) 987-0099 ext. 4010.

The body of a 23-year-old man believed to have jumped to his death from the roof level of the Spring Street Parking Garage was found by a police officer early Tuesday morning. The victim’s vehicle was parked on the top level of the garage.

“At 6 a.m., one of our patrol officers came across an unresponsive male on Spring Street,” said Princeton Police Captain Nicholas K. Sutter on Tuesday. “The officer began life-saving measures but it became apparent that the man was deceased. We are operating under the assumption that this was a suicide and that the man jumped from the roof of the Spring Street Garage. Our investigations have shown that he entered the garage and drove to the top level, where his vehicle was found.”

Captain Sutter said that the man was a resident of Princeton, but was not enrolled at or affiliated with Princeton University. While the identity of the man was known to police as of Tuesday afternoon, it will not be released until his relatives are notified.

Asked whether there were any signs of alcohol, Captain Sutter said, “There was nothing at the scene to indicate that alcohol was involved, but we will need to do a lot more investigating over the next day or two in order to say more.”

Spring Street was closed for approximately two hours Tuesday morning while police dealt with the incident.

 

The sale of the former Princeton Hospital building to Avalon Princeton LLC, the developer with plans for a rental complex at the Witherspoon site, has closed, Princeton HealthCare System announced Tuesday.

The site includes the hospital building, its parking garage, nine houses on Harris Road, and two medical office buildings on Witherspoon Street. AvalonBay, the developer, now owns the hospital building, garage and Harris Road homes, while Herring Properties owns the medical offices, which they plan to renovate and lease for commercial and medical offices.

The hospital building will be demolished to make room for the 280-unit development of apartments and townhomes. Just how that demolition will progress is a topic of controversy and concern among residents of the area, who formed a citizens’ group, Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC. Last week, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled against a lawsuit by the group seeking to block the development.

Members of the group say Judge Jacobson’s opinion contains factual errors, which they are discussing with their lawyers. In an email, APHC member Areta Pawlynsky said that Princeton Planning Board attorney Gerald Muller and AvalonBay lawyer Robert Kasuba’s “rewriting of environmental history” from AvalonBay’s first application “appears to have been accepted without questioning. No new environmental submissions stipulated in the consent order was interpreted as reliance on the detailed record of the first application, yet the Planning Board didn’t try to resolve those outstanding issues,” Ms. Pawlynsky wrote.

Judge Jacobson dismissed all the counts of the lawsuit filed by APHS, the second citizens’ group to form due to concerns about the AvalonBay development. Princeton’s Planning Board rejected the developer’s first application for the hospital site in December 2012. AvalonBay then sued, and the municipality negotiated a consent order with the developer, which then submitted a revised application. The Planning Board approved that submission last year.

Among the points made in her opinion, Judge Jacobson said that health and safety impacts cited by the residents’ group are not supported. But APHS disputes that conclusion with several points about environmental testing, heavy metals, and contaminants flushed into old hospital drain lines.

Princeton Council voted in January to hire a licensed state remediation professional (LSRP) after hearing several citizens air their continued concerns about the demolition. The Council is expected to hear a report by that person at its meeting next Monday before taking another look at the developer’s agreement.

Jon Vogel, AvalonBay vice president, told Council at a recent meeting that a public meeting about the demolition plan will be held once the sale is closed. Contacted Tuesday, he said the meeting is still to be scheduled.

 

At a meeting March 13 at the Chestnut Street Firehouse, residents of the “tree streets” neighborhood will have a chance to hear from representatives of 7-Eleven, the company that wants to put a convenience store into the East Nassau Street property most recently occupied by West Coast Video.

The Bratman family, owners of the building at 259 Nassau Street, have an agreement in principle to rent to 7-Eleven subject to municipal approvals. Situated next to a building owned by the Carnevale family, which most recently housed Olive May market, the large parcel has been the subject of controversy in recent years among local residents, the municipality, and the owners seeking to attract viable tenants. Princeton University also owns a portion of the site.

Mr. Bratman said last week that he hopes residents will attend the meeting with an open mind. “What people need to understand is this: The taxes are very high,” he said. “I’ve been attending Council and zoning hearings for the past five or six years and I’ve heard a consistent theme. People wanted food, as in a grocery. The problem is the density of that part of town can’t support a full-blown grocery, as Davidson’s and Wild Oats and Olive May markets showed when they came and went.

“So the question is, what can be there that can offer food? From what I understand, 7-Eleven is going through a transformation and trying to offer fresh choices like fruits and fresh sandwiches. It’s not your father’s 7-Eleven. Is it an organic grocery store? No, but I think it really is an answer to what I think people have been asking for.”

A neighborhood-wide survey completed in 2012 indicated that while residents were in favor of a food market of some sort, they were against fast food restaurants — especially those with a drive-through window. While 7-Eleven stores do not have drive-through access, they are usually open 24 hours a day.

“On their website, it says that most or almost all of their stores are open 24-7-365,” said Marty Schneiderman, a neighborhood resident and one of the people who created the survey. “There are concerns about that. If they could be closed sometime in the middle of the night, that would be a good idea. You have residences that back up right behind that property.”

Municipal Planning Director Lee Solow said last week that there is no provision in the ordinance, which was revised at the end of 2012 to be an SB (Service Business) zone, that prevents a business from being open 24 hours. A spokesperson for 7-Eleven, which is based in Dallas, said Tuesday that the store would likely be open 24 hours, but “considerable remodeling” would provide proper barriers between houses and the store.

“We are a 24-hour store, and we want to be open whenever people need us,” said Margaret Chabris, the spokesperson. “If we do go forward with this, we plan to include environmentally friendly LED lighting inside and outside. Also, the direction of the lighting will be situated not to disturb nearby residents.”

The building at 259 Nassau Street was a garage before Mr. Bratman’s parents purchased it in 1964 and opened a Viking Furniture store. A Jack and Jill convenience store was on one side and a coin-operated laundry was located in the back. Mr. Bratman’s father closed the furniture store in 1986, but the laundromat remained until a few years ago.

A Wawa convenience store was installed briefly before the Bratmans leased the store to Eckerd Drugs, which was almost immediately purchased by the Rite Aid chain. Since Rite Aid already had a location in Princeton Shopping Center, they closed the Nassau Street store and sublet to West Coast Video, which closed in 2005. Rite Aid’s lease runs until 2015.

Mr. Bratman said he does not plan to do anything to the existing building. The back space has been renovated and an additional tenant is being sought.

“If they’re not making any changes to the physical property itself, the questions are whether there will be parking and for how many cars, and whether there will be landscaping to create a barrier between the headlights of the cars and the homes that are behind there on Murray Place,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “And not just little bushes. They’ll need landscaping that is significant and able to block the light.”

Ms. Chabris said that remodeling would also include a trash enclosure. Noting that area residents have said they were in favor of a local business taking over the site, she said that 7-Eleven is a franchise company. “Our goal is to provide an opportunity for a local resident, which would make it a locally run business,” she said.

Mr. Bratman sent emails to neighborhood residents informing them of the plan for 7-Eleven and the public meeting that will be held next week. Representatives from 7-Eleven are to be on hand to explain their concept for the site, which Ms. Chabris said will include an interior floor plan. “We don’t typically do this, but we will show them how the interior will look, with movable tables and seating.”

She confirmed that the 7-Eleven chain is now emphasizing fresh items. “We have a wide variety of fresh and better-for-you foods made each day and delivered,” she said.

The plan does not become official until it goes through the approval process. “We understand they want to present their plan and we look forward to it,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “We certainly also hope they will listen to people’s interests and concerns, and be responsive to what they want to do. That’s the way it works best.”

 

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The scene took place on a recent Saturday near the kiosk on Nassau Street during a lull between snow events. “Buddy Girl,” the snowiest object in sight, appears to be communicating a serious longing for cookies to the Girl Scouts of Troop 71839, 6th graders from John Witherspoon Middle School, and Troop 71835, kindergarteners from Johnson Park School. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

 

February 26, 2014
GROUP THINKING: Members of the Princeton High School team competing in the Science Bowl seem cool, calm, and collected as they figure out the answer to a bonus question in the round against the Bergen County High School team on Saturday. The PHS team reached the 10th round of the U.S. Department of Energy’s New Jersey Regional High School Science Bowl on Saturday at the Princeton Plasma Laboratory before their defeat. From left: Alexander Jin, Stephanie Ren, Rye Anderson, and Enric Boix.(Photo by Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications)

GROUP THINKING: Members of the Princeton High School team competing in the Science Bowl seem cool, calm, and collected as they figure out the answer to a bonus question in the round against the Bergen County High School team on Saturday. The PHS team reached the 10th round of the U.S. Department of Energy’s New Jersey Regional High School Science Bowl on Saturday at the Princeton Plasma Laboratory before their defeat. From left: Alexander Jin, Stephanie Ren, Rye Anderson, and Enric Boix. (Photo by Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications)

Teams of middle and high school students from Princeton and across the state took part in the U.S. Department of Energy’s New Jersey Regional Science Bowl on Friday and Saturday at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). 

Thirty-two teams competed in a University Challenge-like competition, buzzing their answers against the clock.

On Friday, 16 middle school teams of four to five students participated. John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS) placed second and took home the “School Spirit Award” for staying on after they were knocked out to cheer on others. The J Droids of Warren, will go to the National Science Bowl finals in Washington D.C., in April.

On Saturday, 32 teams of 200 high school students competed. At around 1 p.m., Princeton High School took on Bergen County High School. But before the two teams faced-off against one another in what would be a fast-paced, question and answer format, testing their ability to solve mathematical problems as well as their knowledge in the categories of earth science, energy, general science, mathematics, physics and life science, they first had to check their buzzers.

The round began with multiple choice questions. In a nod to the techno, the choices were listed not as the usual A B, C, or D, but as W, X, Y, or Z.

For those too quick on the buzzer a penalty gave points to opposition, but only for a wrong answer. So there was an incentive to buzz quickly if you were sure of the answer and a disincentive if you were not entirely sure. Such judgment on the part of the players is what differentiates winners and losers.

Questions ranged from the understandable to the mathematical. An example of the former is “Which of the following is a deciduous conifer: Norfolk Pine, Western Hemlock, Southern American Larch, or White Cedar?” An example of the latter is: “Solve for x: 27 to the power of 6-x equals 9 to the power of x-1.” Algebra to some, Aaargh to others. A correct answer to a multiple choice question earned a bonus knowledge question.

In spite of the fast pace, the atmosphere in the PPPL auditorium was relaxed, even festive, with student participants at ease with the competitive environment. What at first sight seemed a recipe for stress, turned out to be high schoolers enjoying themselves. They were having fun with sometimes mystifying questions.

As the PHS team score advanced from 8-0, 8-8, 40-32, 94-68 and finally 112-68, there was a degree of mounting tension, but mostly there was fun. On several occasions Bergen County HS gained four penalty points because of interrupts by members of the Princeton team.

PHS Coach Tim Anderson, who teaches Advancement Placement (AP) environmental science, as well as astronomy and oceanography, was astonished when his team faltered on one oceanography question. “They should have gotten that one,” he said.

Mr. Anderson reported his pride in their performance overall. He has reason to be happy since PHS students taking part in last week’s “Shore Bowl,” the regional competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, held at the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Science, triumphed and will move on to compete with other regional champions in May.

Of the local teams at the PPPL on Saturday, PHS went the furthest before their defeat in the 10th round. In the final 13th round the winner was State College, Pa., which receives all-expenses-paid trips to Washington, D.C. to compete in the finals.

Besides JWMS, a team from the Princeton Charter School also competed at the middle school level. Other high schools competing were Princeton Day School, Trenton Catholic Academy, East Brunswick High School, The Lawrenceville School, Montgomery High School, Lawrence High School, Stuart Country Day School, West Windsor Plainsboro North, West Windsor-Plainsboro South, and South Brunswick High School.

Now in its 24th year, the National Science Bowl is one of the nation’s largest science competitions. It aims to support interest in science and mathematics and more than 225,000 students have participated in the annual event since it began. This year, it was expected to draw about 9,000 high school and about 5,000 middle school students from across the nation.

 

Responding to a statement issued Tuesday that they have failed to produce accurate mapping of the construction path for the proposed Princeton Ridge Transco Pipeline project, the Williams Company said that “incomplete survey permissions” prevented them from having access to the area of concern until recently. The company responded further that they have provided mapping for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to the agency’s satisfaction “for the Letter of Interpretation process.”

Williams wants to expand its natural gas pipeline through an environmentally sensitive area of the Princeton Ridge, affecting some 30 properties. The company has held public presentations and met repeatedly with the citizens’ group Princeton Ridge Coalition, representatives from the municipality, and others concerned about the impact of construction on area wetlands and wildlife, as well as safety.

“I have met with Williams officials and their consultants from Texas and Florida at least a half a dozen times, and they have always promised to do the right thing by the community,” said Jennifer Coffey, policy director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, in a press release. “On at least two occasions, we had meetings with officials in Princeton and Trenton to discuss the incomplete wetlands mapping, and Williams promised to fix it. Their most recent mapping shows that they have done nothing to correct the problem or accurately represent the sensitive nature of the Ridge.”

The press release states further that Williams’ reports “fail to map critical regulated features of the existing right of way (ROW). These include watercourses, wetlands with active seeps and springs within and adjacent to the ROW, as well as State open waters occurring within 50 feet of the ROW.” The release quotes a report prepared by the company Princeton Hydro as saying, “Failure to accurately identify and delineate these regulated [stream and wetland] features will preclude an accurate representation of the project’s impacts.”

According to the release, the Watershed Association, the municipality, and the citizens’ group are calling on the Department of Environmental Protection to ask Williams to re-do their wetlands surveys “in compliance with the law.”

“In sum, Williams’ efforts to properly delineate wetlands and regulated waters within the Princeton Ridge segment are plainly inadequate. They call into question the accuracy and completeness of all studies Williams has commissioned in the Princeton Ridge segment. We are deeply disappointed that Williams has failed to meet its basic regulatory obligations, regardless of whether these oversights were intentional or inadvertent,” according to a letter written on behalf of the coalition by attorney Paul P. Josephson, a Princeton Ridge resident.

In an email, The Williams Company said, “We have worked in good faith with the Princeton Coalition to address their concerns, and had previously committed to them to map additional areas within a 150 foot corridor. Previously, this was not accomplished due to incomplete survey permissions. Until recently, we did not have survey access to a key property in this area of concern and therefore could not survey outside of the existing right of way.”

The email continues to say the mapping Williams provided for the state environmental agency “reflects delineations that were performed in the presence of the NJDEP, to their satisfaction, for the Letter of Interpretation (LOI) process. Additional surveys, although not required as a function of the LOI line verification process, will be incorporated as part of NJDEP’s review of Transco’s freshwater wetlands application. Transco continues to coordinate with NJDEP to provide the information necessary for the proposed project to be reviewed in accordance with the state of New Jersey’s environmental regulations.”

Barbara Blumenthal, a resident active in the Princeton Ridge Coalition, said in the release, “The Ridge is our home. The Princeton community feels great responsibility to be good stewards and protect it from unnecessary harm. There are extensive preserved lands on the ridge that the Princeton community and officials have worked hard to protect and now enjoy as open space. All we are asking is for Williams to comply with New Jersey environmental rules and conduct all the analyses they are required to do.”

 

The application deadline for Communiversity Festival of the Arts, the celebration of art and music that attracts more than 40,000 people to the heart of Princeton every spring, is March 1. Presented by the Arts Council of Princeton with participation from Princeton University and support from the town of Princeton, Communiversity will take place on Sunday, April 27, rain or shine, from 1-6 p.m.

A limited number of corporate sponsorship opportunities are still available. In addition to booth space, sponsors receive brand recognition at the event as well as in Communiversity advertisements, press releases and social media. All interested participants — including corporate sponsors, artists, crafters, merchandise and food vendors, and performers — should visit www.artscouncilof
princeton.org to download and print the appropriate application.

All submissions must be postmarked no later than Saturday, March 1, 2014. Because Communiversity is a juried event, applications postmarked after the deadline will not be considered. All accepted participants will be notified on or about March 20. Contact communiversity@artscouncilofprinceton.org with questions.

 

A lawsuit filed by a citizens’ group seeking to block AvalonBay’s plan for a rental community on the site of the former Princeton Hospital has been dismissed. On Tuesday, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled in favor of the developer.

The residents group, Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC, filed the five-count lawsuit last December in an effort to overturn the Princeton Planning Board’s approval of the developer’s plan for a 280-unit rental complex. Judge Jacobson initially threw out one count of the suit, saying the statue of limitations had run out on the issue. The remaining four counts were dismissed Tuesday, less than a week after a hearing in which Judge Jacobson heard two hours of testimony by attorney Steven Griegel, representing the group, and Gerald Muller, representing the Planning Board. AvalonBay attorney Robert Kasuba was also present at the hearing.

The citizens’ group listed concerns about public safety, health, and welfare issues during demolition, which Mr. Griegel said have not been sufficiently addressed. He also raised procedural concerns. Mr. Griegel said the consent order that the Town entered into with AvalonBay last April, to suspend litigation and allow the developer to submit a revised plan after their initial plan was rejected, was unfair because it left the public out. Mr. Muller countered that there is no requirement for the public to review a consent order.

On their website, the Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC has said they are exploring their next steps. “We have 45 days to appeal this decision and will be meeting with our lawyers in the coming days to understand what options remain,” the website reads.

After hearing concerns from several residents, Princeton Council voted last month to hire an independent licensed state remediation professional (LSRP) to help ensure public safety during the demolition process. At this past Monday’s Council meeting, municipal engineer Bob Kiser said that an incinerator formerly located at the hospital, which AvalonBay officials asserted was used only for incinerating paper records, was in fact used for medical waste.

 The Council hopes to hear from the LSRP at its March 10 meeting before taking another look at the developer’s agreement.

 

 

In November of 2012, there were no commercial airplanes flying in and out of Trenton/Mercer Airport. By June of this year, the small airfield off Interstate 95 in Ewing Township will be boasting 73 flights each week to destinations ranging from St. Augustine, Florida to St. Louis, Missouri.

This unprecedented growth was the focus of a February 19 talk at The Nassau Club by Daniel Shurz, senior vice president at Frontier Airlines. The carrier took over the terminal 15 months ago and turned it into a viable alternative to Philadelphia and Newark airports. Mr. Shurz, who spoke at a breakfast held by the Chamber of Commerce of the Princeton Area, announced that the airline will add service to St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis in June.

“We love that this is an old, cheap airport,” he said. “That keeps the fares low. And we’ve kept the fares low because we have a great partner in Mercer County.”

Mr. Shurz said that more than 2.5 million people live closer to Trenton/Mercer than any other airport offering commercial service. Newark and Philadelphia are plagued by delays, making the Ewing airport a favorable option. Unlike other airports of its size, Trenton/Mercer has a runway long enough to accommodate the 138-seat Airbus 319 aircrafts operated by 20-year-old, Denver-based Frontier.

While other commercial airlines have tried to make a go of service at the airfield in the past, none were able to succeed. “The last one was Eastwind in 1995. They picked a good airport, they just didn’t know what they were doing,” said Mr. Shurz.

Last fall, Trenton/Mercer was closed for two months during a mutli-million dollar overhaul financed largely through federal grants. The waiting area was enlarged, a new baggage claim facility was added, and parking lots were expanded. Formerly free, parking now costs $8 a day.

Most Princeton area residents were unfamiliar with Frontier before its arrival in New Jersey. “We knew coming in that you’d never heard of us,” Mr. Shurz said. “Most people didn’t even know the airport was there. But we’re doing less advertising now, because we don’t need to. In January, not historically the best month, we filled 91.5 percent of our seats out of Trenton.”

Frontier’s Denver home is “a great place to put an airline,” Mr. Shurz said, “because we’re hundreds of miles from anywhere. We needed to find a way to diversify that airline. Trenton is the first time we’ve diversified organically and we’ve found something that works really well.”

With its expansion to St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee, Frontier will have non-stop service to 17 destinations: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago-Midway, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Indianapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, St. Augustine, and Tampa.

“We’re attracting customers who have to pay with their own money,” Mr. Shurz said. “There are a lot more leisure customers than you might think.”

Asked whether Frontier flights are included on discount websites like Priceline, Mr. Shurz said “There is only one website you need to know: Flyfrontier.com. You get certain benefits when you book through our website, and you get smoking hot fares.”

Frontier will host two flight attendant recruiting seminars on March 7 and 8 at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor. Participants must be willing to relocate, hold a current passport, and be willing to spend the entire day at the event. RSVP via email at FAcareers@flyfrontier.com.

 

Officers of the Princeton Police Department (PPD) received training last week on how to handle immigration status with respect to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) laws. 

“This is an important step in building trust with the immigrant community in Princeton,” said Police Commissioner Heather Howard, who also chairs the municipality’s Public Safety Committee. “In a nutshell, the Princeton Police Department will not be enforcing immigration laws. This is important for everybody. If we want a safe community, it must be safe for everyone and any victim, no matter what their immigration status, should feel comfortable coming forward to report a crime.”

The training puts into operation an order that was adopted by the department in the fall, clarifying the role of local police in relation to federal immigration enforcement. It is designed to enhance public safety by ensuring that people who are victims of, or witnesses to, crime are not afraid to cooperate with police.

“The order was the result of a long and close collaboration with the Human Services Commission (HSC) and the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF). It builds on new outreach by Spanish speaking officers in the community, and sends a strong message that witnesses or victims should not be afraid to come forward and work with local law enforcement,” said Ms. Howard.

The order states: that “Local police are not charged with the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The federal government and its agencies are the authorities responsible for enforcement of immigration law Й. Immigration enforcement by state and local police would have an adverse effect in community/police relations. It is the intention of the Princeton Police to maintain positive relations with all members of the Princeton Community by providing fair, compassionate, and unbiased police service to all community members regardless of the community members’ immigration status.”

Although the order was adopted last fall, both Captain Nick Sutter, the department’s acting chief, and the Public Safety Committee felt it important to “operationalize it through officer training.”

During the training, officers received an explanation of Federal Immigration Law from local immigration attorney Ryan Lilienthal with Mr. Sutter on hand to facilitate discussion on the role of local officers. A representative of New Labor, which works with immigrant groups, spoke on workers rights and a speaker from the New Jersey Departtment of Labor discussed wage theft law.

“Last year, about 10 cases of wage theft were investigated and rectified through mediation,” said Mr. Sutter. “Increasing awareness leads to increasing reports to the police. We are not necessarily trying to make arrests but rather trying to solve the problem in a positive way. Sometimes these cases can be more complicated than they first appear and they are by no means confined to construction workers, but cross all types of professional lines.”

According to John Heilner, volunteer chair of the HSC subcommittee on immigration issues, victims might be employed by contractors, restaurant owners, landscapers, private residents, or companies who employ immigrants as cleaners or nannies.

Wage Theft

Wage theft is a crime that takes advantage of people with undocumented status. In collaboration with LALDEF, HSC, and New Labor, the PPD has created a new intake process for people to come forward and report it.

The form asks about the nature of the crime being reported, which might be something like: receiving no overtime for a 12 hour day; working 50 hours and being paid for only 30; or being charged a per diem deduction from wages for the use of tools.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface of this problem, which is widespread across the country,” said Mr. Heilner, who points out that a violation of the New Jersey State minimum hourly wage is also wage theft. The state’s minimum wage is currently $8.25 per hour, higher than the federal minimum wage.

Think of a worker who is undocumented. He or she takes on a job for a few days and then an unscrupulous employer withholds wages from someone who may feel unable to demand fair payment because he or she fears that by reporting the “wage theft,” they might fall afoul of immigration law.

The issue came to light when the PPD conducted a Community Survey last year. The Survey revealed that more was needed to reach Princeton’s immigrant population. In spite of going door to door and having the survey available in Spanish and English, the response was poor. Since then, the department has conducted neighborhood meetings, instituted bike patrols, increased foot patrols in the central business district, pursued more directed traffic enforcement, and has initiated several school-based security initiatives.

Building Trust

Last summer’s raid by ICE in Princeton resulted in an atmosphere of mistrust in the immigrant community. “We want residents to know that it was not local law enforcement officers who carried out this raid,” said Ms. Howard.

After the raid, two of Princeton’s Spanish-speaking officers spoke at St. Paul’s on Nassau Street to help calm fears. The PPD has several officers who are bilingual in Spanish and English and the Director of Human Services, Elisa Neira, is also bilingual.

Mr. Heilner points out that persons who believe they have been the victims of wage theft can come to either the Human Services Office at One Monument Drive (the former Borough Hall), the police, or LALDEF. The same intake form will be used by each.

“We are very happy with the way in which the police order drafted by Captain Sutter clarifies that local police officers are there to maintain public safety and enforce local laws not to spend time and resources tracking down the immigrant status of someone who has been here, say, for two decades and working as a family’s bread winner,” said Mr. Heilner.

 

Following more than a year of planning, maintenance of Princeton’s parks is being consolidated under the Town’s Recreation Department, it was announced at the Princeton Council meeting Monday night. Shifting responsibilities previously shared by the public works and recreation offices to just one department will allow the public easier access when reporting problems, said Ben Stentz, the municipality’s recreation director.

“The most common complaint we have heard from people is that they didn’t know who to call for park issues,” Mr. Stentz said. “With consolidation, it has gotten a little bit simpler, but not that much. We wanted to address this by streamlining communication and creating one-stop shopping.”

The reorganization makes the Recreation Department a clearinghouse for all things related to park maintenance. No new workers will be hired to accommodate the change, but four seasonal workers from public works will be shifted to recreation. Any concerns about park issues should now be reported to parks@princetonnj.gov, a temporary email address until See Click Fix, an online system for reporting town issues, is put into play. With that system, residents will be able to include a photo of the problem.

“This is a major shift and it will take time to find its groove,” Mr. Stentz said. “I don’t want to sugar-coat this. This is an ambitious plan. It will be continually evaluated.”

Later at the meeting, Mayor Liz Lempert cast a vote to break a tie over whether to hire Trishka W. Cecil to replace Edwin W. Schmierer as municipal attorney. Both Mr. Schmierer and Ms. Cecil work for the Princeton law firm Mason, Griffin & Pierson. Mayor Lempert voted in favor along with Council members Heather Howard, Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman. Voting against the appointment were Jenny Crumiller, Jo Butler, and Patrick Simon.

Ms. Cecil will take over March 1, with a contract that runs through the end of 2014 and does not exceed $375,000. Mr. Schmierer, who was praised at the meeting by Mayor Lempert and members of the public, has been municipal attorney, serving the former Borough and Township, for more than 30 years.

Five proposals were received from firms interested in the job, Ms. Lempert said. Three were interviewed in multiple closed sessions. Before casting his vote against the appointment, Mr. Simon expressed frustration that the Council could not reach a consensus. Ms. Butler echoed that sentiment. “I think a fresh start would have been beneficial,” she said.

Ms. Lempert said she, too, was sorry a consensus could not be reached. “I cast my vote reluctantly [to break the tie],” she said. “But I think the stability and history we have with the firm will serve us well.”

The Council held a preliminary discussion of the town’s budget, the first in a series of talks that will be held through the end of April. The preliminary budget is $59.4 million, which is $950,000 less than last year despite a proposal to build a $1 million storage facility for Public Works equipment and vehicles.

The anticipated budget decrease is due to a reduction in staff from consolidation, said Ms. Lempert. Kathy Monzo, the town’s director of finance, told Council that the goal this year is a flat tax rate. Council will adopt policies for managing debt and surplus at the next meeting on March 10, Ms. Lempert said.

Also at the meeting, Princeton’s administrator Bob Bruschi urged the Council to move forward with the hiring of Captain Nick Sutter as Chief of Police. Mr. Sutter has been in charge of the department since former Chief David Dudeck left in September following charges of harassment in a lawsuit by members of the force.

After Mr. Bruschi outlined the vetting process for Mr. Sutter, which would include a public presentation and an opportunity for members of the police force to offer anonymous comments, Council members debated whether to act on the issue but ultimately took it into closed session.

 

What does the future hold for Princeton? Chances are, if we don’t take steps now, the answer could well be more time waiting in traffic and pedestrians jostling for space with bicyclists, motorized wheelchairs, and other personal vehicles on Princeton’s busy sidewalks. 

Notice the “we” in that last sentence? The pronoun was used a great deal on Saturday morning at the Princeton Public Library where over 60 concerned citizens turned out to contribute to a discussion on “Traffic and Transit: Issue and Opportunities,” organized by Princeton Future, the grassroots non-profit formed to “protect and enhance Princeton’s unique community and share concerns about the directions future growth and development may take.”

For one speaker the plural pronoun meant pedestrians and bicyclists. For another it meant urban planners and  local government officials. To others, including many in the audience, it meant local residents, commuters going to and from Princeton, parents, teenagers, aged persons with limited mobility, and lovers of good old Shanks’ pony.

Each speaker seemed to represent a different constituency whose interests overlapped and sometimes conflicted. But all of the above were included by someone at some point during the morning’s proceedings in presentations heard in turn from Marvin Reed, Sam Bunting, Ralph Widner, Steven Kruse, and Kevin Wilkes.

Mr. Reed, a former mayor of Princeton Borough, kicked off with “Where Are We Now?” a description of the the “circulation element of the Princeton Master Plan” as updated last November. As chair of the Master Plan Subcommittee of the Princeton Planning Board, Mr. Reed suggested that more parking structures such as the one on Spring Street are most definitely in Princeton’s future.

Walkable Princeton’s Sam Bunting, a member of the Princeton Traffic and Transportation Committee, presented “Complete Streets in Princeton, What, Where, How?”

Complete Streets are defined by urban planners as those planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation, and to allow for safe travel by those walking, bicycling, driving automobiles, riding public transportation, or delivering goods.

Last year, the municipality incorporated complete streets into its Masterplan and hopes to have an implementation plan for complete streets and a bike route network by the end of this year.

“Think of a street as a long park, not just a way to get from point A to point B but a place where people want to walk, to rest, to be in shade. Complete streets calm traffic, accommodate pedestrians, and personal vehicles, and can offer sustainability when concrete is replaced by plantings; they can connect the community to places of historic interest and enhance the entire streetscape,” said Mr. Bunting, a relative newcomer to Princeton. His talk was illustrated with images of the pedestrian and bike path in downtown Indianapolis, known as the “Cultural Trail.”

Deflecting criticism that complete streets can be costly, Mr. Bunting said that in some cases all that is required is paint and besides, “Princeton has a rule that any such costs must be within a 15 percent increase.” He described ways of slowing traffic using painted crossings and curb bump outs. “For Princeton, not one solution is needed, but a menu of options,” he said. For more information about Complete Streets, visit the Pedestrian Joint Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee: pjpbac.blogspot.com.

At the end of his talk, Mr. Bunting was asked by audience member and former Mayor of Princeton Township Jim Floyd about Princeton Planning Board’s recent decision to forego speed bumps in favor or other ways of slowing traffic. Mr. Floyd invited Mr. Bunting to take a walk down John Street, which he called “the most unique street in Princeton.” Since the policy against speed humps predates Mr. Bunting’s time, Mr. Lahnston remarked that he believed the decision was made in order to facilitate access for police and fire vehicles, for which speed humps are problematic.

Steve Kruse, also of the Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee then presented a wish list of bicycling needs in his talk: “Bicycling. What do we need, what do we want?”

A Widner Perspective

Introduced by Mr. Lahnston as “Princeton’s data maven,” regional planner Ralph Widner, a member of both the Traffic and Transportation Committee and of Princeton Future’s council, addressed “Traffic Facts and Possible Transit Strategies.”

Mr. Widner’s data places Princeton in relation to its greater surroundings. Last year, he unveiled “A Statistical Portrait,” a database of data from the 2010 U.S. Census and the 2007-2011 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census, describing it as “a tool that will help us to argue for what is needed.”

“Goals without strategies are just wish lists and we need to think about implementation,” he said. “The previous presentations have argued eloquently for various ways of making change within Princeton but the problems we face connect to further afield. We must think strategically about all of the groups coming into, going out of, and traveling through Princeton. What is the universe of people we should focus on and how do we persuade them to use public transit rather than the automobile,” he asked.

“Let’s identify the universe of markets that could be served by public transit. Let’s talk to them and find out what they will and will not use. They’ll tell you they don’t want to change two or three times on a single journey. Then we can design a system that might include light rail, jitneys, taxis. Don’t start with the tools, start with people.”

As Mr. Widner points out, Princeton’s problems are not confined to the municipal boundary. “With some 180,000 vehicle trips passing through Princeton every day, traffic and ways to transplant auto travel with mass transit must be the focus for the next decade,” he said.

ASUP Task Force

Lastly, architect Kevin Wilkes, chair of the Alexander Street-University Place Task Force (ASUP), offered a detailed presentation of traffic and transit in the Alexander Street Corridor, including suggested changes in traffic patterns. The Task Force, he said, had looked and examined the benefits and drawbacks of options for a one-way loop on Alexander and University Place. It had also addressed the feasibility of ideas such as turning Witherspoon Street into a pedestrian precinct.

Mr. Wilkes pointed out as well that all of the event’s presentations had been made by volunteers. “The municipality doesn’t have an office to do this,” he said. “Our planning board can write documents for people who want to build and can create a desire for future change but it doesn’t have the resources to implement these designs. What we need is a planning office so that these responsibilities do not fall to community volunteers.

“Kevin hit the nail on the head,” commented Mr. Widner in a brief telephone interview Monday. “There is currently no effective way for the municipality to plan for the future. The planning committee can only react. What we need is to be able to look ahead and make predictions and for that data are required.”

Princeton Future

“Like most municipalities, we are underpowered in terms of people and resources,” said Mr. Widner. “The problem is how to make things really happen. Most small municipalities are dealing with this and there is an effort through the Central New Jersey Forum of mayors to deal with this. But, of course, one of the major problems is the dysfunction in Trenton, and I’m not simply referring to the current administration but to the refusal of the state to invest. New Jersey cannot be the major transit corridor for the United States and not invest in infrastructure.

When a member of the audience suggested that funds for some of the suggested improvements might come from raising the gas tax, there was a spontaneous round of applause. “But no one in Trenton right now would touch such a tax. And that’s why it’s time for transformational change,” said Mr. Widner. “Princeton Future and other such groups are a way to build change from the bottom up but what is needed is transformational change and we are not going to get it from the government in Trenton.”

For more information, visit: www.princetonfuture.org.

 

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Members of the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team celebrate after defeating Morristown-Beard 4-3 last week in the state Prep championship game at McGraw Rink. It was the first outright Prep title since 2011 for PDS, which shared the crown with Mo-Beard last year after the teams skated to a 2-2 tie in the title game. For more details on the game, see page 32. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

 

February 19, 2014

Princeton High School’s jazz ensembles are used to winning awards. The nearly 150 students who participate in the school’s band program have been recognized over the years at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston.

But at this year’s 46th annual festival on February 8, held in front of some 5,000 people at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center, PHS musicians outdid themselves. They nabbed first place in three categories: Large Ensemble, Small Ensemble, and Vocal Jazz.

“This is the first time ever in the history of the festival that the same school has won first place in all three categories,” said Joe Bongiovi, PHS’s band director. “It’s the fifth year we’ve won for Large Ensemble. For Small Ensemble and Vocal Jazz, it’s our first win (in first place). And it’s the first time our combo has won; we’ve been second or third before.”

The eight singers and four instrumentalists in the Vocal Ensemble ranked fifth last year, said Mr. Bongiovi, who also directs the Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra. To make the jump to first place this year, the group performed jazz arrangements of three songs. “One was a Beyonce tune, ‘Crazy in Love,’ in twenties or thirties jazz style,” he said. “Then they did an a cappella version of an Adele song, her cover of The Cure’s ‘Love Song. Last was a jazz standard, ‘I Want to be Happy.’”

Five of the students were also recognized for their individual efforts: Joe Bell, Aditya Raguram, Michelle Bazile, Katherine Gerberich, and Ananth Balasubramanian.

It is the broad nature of jazz that makes it so appealing to students, Mr. Bongiovi believes. “The nice thing about jazz is that it covers so many different styles,” he said. “We’ve infused pop into it. We’ll do a lot of Michael Jackson songs with the band, for example. The instrumentations and arrangements really allow us to do so many different things. And the kids see a timeline of how it’s all connected.”

Mr. Bongiovi, who is a distant relative of rocker Jon Bon Jovi, encourages his students to study classical music. “Most of them take private lessons. Some of them go to Westminster Conservatory or have independent private teachers,” he said. “It’s really important. We apply the techniques they learn to what we’re doing.”

The festival, billed as the biggest event of its kind in the United States, is staged by the Berklee College of Music, the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. Professors from the college serve as judges for the more than 200 schools that participate.

Mr. Bongiovi has been taking students to the festival for years. For chaperone duties, he always invites music teachers from local elementary and middle schools because of their enduring relationships with the students.

“It’s funny. Unlike English or math class where you see these kids one year and you’re done, the music teachers see them year after year after year,” he said. “The connection is really great, because we know them as people, not just as students. So this year, we had teachers from Littlebrook, Riverside, Community Park, John Witherspoon, and Cranbury schools come along. Everyone was proud.”

 

Prison reform is no easy matter. Prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. When it comes to education, described by Cornel West as “probably the best thing we can do for people who are in prison,” resources are scarce.

But one program, founded here in Princeton, the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program, is tackling some of the problems head on, one inmate at a time, with the help of Princeton University (PU) students who tutor prisoners to gain their GEDs and high school diplomas.

“You don’t have to go as far as Africa or to the Middle East to give back,” the program’s executive director Jim Farrin routinely tells participating students. “You can go 35 miles away to a prison where people are in desperate need of contact and further education.”

Students like PU Senior Grace Li, who has been a program tutor for three years, provide one-on-one help in reading, writing, and math. A public policies student at the Woodrow Wilson School, Ms. Li said that the experience of working with inmates has drawn her to a career in criminal justice and prison reform. “This program has changed my world view,” said Ms. Li, “I have come to understand how mass incarceration has effects on economics, politics, and the racial relationships in this country.”

Other students speak not only about the benefits of the program for those it serves, but also of the benefits they receive. “I was able to help those who needed it most and also learned a lot about the criminal justice system and criminals in America,” commented Dan Kowalaski (Class of 2012). “One of the most rewarding things in the program was that I was able to see outside of Princeton and get entirely new perspectives on life.”

Henry Barmeier (Class of 2010 and a Rhodes Scholar) had a similar experience. “The most incredible part of the program was how it brought me into a world so close to home and yet so foreign…. I learned a tremendous amount in a very short time about the nature of incarceration in New Jersey and about the challenges and opportunities for prison education and re-entry programs,” he is quoted as saying on the program’s website.

But it’s not just university students who participate in this effort. Local taxi driver Frenel Cide, originally from Haiti, shuttles students to and from the A.C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Bordentown, about seven miles south of Trenton, and the Princeton campus each day, starting at 7:15 a.m. Department of Corrections Special Officer Mike Ritter, who also takes part in the program, is a staunch advocate of expanding literacy programs in prison.

According to Mr. Farrin, the United States has 2.3 million people in prison and many are imprisoned for longer periods than those convicted of similar crimes in Canada or the U.K. “About fifty-three percent of those incarcerated in our area are inside for non-violent crimes; many for drugs or drug related offenses,” he said

Many are around the same age as their student mentors. “These are young people just like me,” said one PU student. “It can be tough to persuade an inmate that you are there simply because you want to make a difference, to help them,” acknowledged another. “One thing I learned is how to teach.” said a third.

“This has been my most rewarding extra-curricular experience at Princeton,” said Clare Herceg (Class of 2011), who describes the program as “an amazing opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those who society often neglects.”

According to Ms. Herceg, “each visit to the prison not only allows tutors to improve the educational skills of the inmates, but also gives students the opportunity to show the inmates that people outside of the prison system care about them as human beings and believe in their ability to succeed. This experience has transformed my perceptions of the criminal justice system, educational inequalities, and issues surrounding poverty.”

“You see, this is a win-win-win program,” said Mr. Farrin. “It helps prisons by providing free tutors, it helps inmates further their education, which has been shown to effectively reduce recidivism, and it helps students, many of whom are choosing careers in criminal justice and becoming advocates of prison reform.”

Before the program took students into prisons, it researched to see if there were any similar programs out there, using college students to provide assistance to prison inmates. “We had the Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors research this area and there was virtually nothing that involved students going to prisons near their colleges,” said founder Charlie Puttkammer. “We believe that correctional education is one of the most effective interventions in reducing recidivism and increasing employment opportunities.”

Cognizant of the potential dangers of taking young students, used to the “orange bubble” that is the Princeton University campus, into prisons, the program advises students about appropriate behavior on both sides. They are advised about what clothes to wear, not to take cell phones into prison, and never to give out personal information such as emails or addresses. When they enter the prison, they are divested of personal belongings including ID materials.

“Petey” Greene (1931-1984)

In 1960, Mr. Greene was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to ten years in Fairfax County, Virginia. Inside, he became the prison disc jockey and a role model for many inmates. He overcame drug addiction and incarceration to become one of the most notable media personalities in Washington, D.C. The actor Don Cheadle portrayed him in the 2007 film Talk to Me. 

The Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program was founded in 2007 by Mr. Greene’s close friend and mentor, Mr. Putkammer, as a non-profit dedicated to changing the state of education in America’s correctional facilities.

To this end, it recruits, trains, and transports college students and community members to local correctional facilities where they serve as volunteer tutors and teachers.

What started with a handful of volunteers at Princeton University has grown to include over 300 volunteer tutors from six universities who serve five New Jersey correctional facilities. Inmates who receive tutoring complete the GED with a 90 percent passing rate. “We hope to expand nationally in the next several years,” said Mr. Farrin, “and ultimately, through our programs, to revolutionize the state of prison education.” The goal is create a partnership with prison administrators and educators to help inmates prepare for life outside of prison.

The Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. For more information please visit: www.peteygreene.org.

 

Many sites throughout Mercer County will offer free income tax preparation assistance to help residents prepare and file their 2013 taxes. Service is offered at most sites from early February through mid-April unless otherwise noted.

The AARP Foundation provides Tax-Aides to assist people with low to moderate incomes with 2013 tax preparation at Mercer County Connection, libraries, and other sites. Local sites include Nassau Presbyterian Church, Princeton Public Library, Princeton Senior Resource Center, and West Windsor Senior Center. For additional sites and more information, visit www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide/.

The IRS VITA Program generally offers free tax help to people who make $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in local communities.

For more information, visit www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers or  www.earnedincometaxcredit.org.

 

Families and young children can take part in two upcoming events at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. “Insects in Winter for Preschoolers” is Tuesday, February 25 at 10 a.m. and Wednesday, February 26 at 1 p.m. On Saturday, March 1 at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., “Maple Sugar Memories” will be held. Both programs will take place at the Watershed’s Kingsford Community Room.

Registration is required for the February events and recommended for the March program. The price is $10 per child for members, $15 non-members, for the “Insects in Winter.” For “Maple Sugar Memories,” the cost is $10 per family for members; $15 non-members.

The Watershed is located at 31 Titus Mill Road in Hopewell Township. Call (609) 737-7592 for more information.